Cicero East Syracuse-Minoa’s field hockey team was entering new territory when it took on Maine-Endwell in Saturday’s Class B regional final at Cicero-North Syracuse’s Bragman Stadium.
But the Spartans did not stay there too long. Short-handed on the defensive side, ESM was overwhelmed as M-E, the Section IV champions, beat them 4-0 to advance to this weekend’s state final four.
“We went in a little bit nervous, and we didn’t play very well,” said ESM head coach Kate Sergi.
The nerves were understandable. ESM had never played in a state tournament game before. The tournament was not in existence in 1977, the last time ESM claimed a Section III title, and M-E carried far more experience into this contest.
It didn’t help that, the day before the game, senior defender Sara Hennessey broke her foot in a scrimmage against Liverpool, the Class A champions who were trying to stay sharp in a 14-day break between the sectional final and state semifinals (the Warriors had a regional bye).
Perhaps knowing that ESM was short-handed, M-E applied heavy measure in the early stages as ESM had difficulty clearing the ball out of its own end.
Just 6:20 into the game, M-E’s pressure paid off when, on a fast break, Emma Valentine took the rebound of a shot and poked it past Rachel Aird, putting the Section IV champions in front 1-0.
Barely five minutes later, M-E made it 2-0, as Daniella Dean’s nifty long pass from the right side was flicked by Gabby Stein into the cage. ESM called a time-out, trying any way it could to turn things around.
Nothing worked, though, as at the 16:18 mark it got to 3-0, Valentine earning her second goal on yet another fast break, assisted this time by Natalie Longo.
Nearly 20 minutes passed before ESM earned a penalty corner, which quickly fizzled out, and no more followed in the half as M-E kept that three-goal margin until halftime.